by NAOMI DOSHI Staff Writer
Though teachers continuously lecture students about having more enthusiasm for reading, it is difficult for some to enjoy the assigned literature. Giving students a choice would open their minds and ignite a passion for reading.
English class is usually filled with classics, plays, and guidelines for searching for pre-analyzed symbolism, but the core of this content is to teach students about themes and writing strategies.
However, it is still possible to teach students about certain themes and literary concepts while allowing them to choose their own books. By maintaining certain regulations such as genre, reading level, and length of the novel, teachers can ensure that students are still gaining knowledge from the books while enjoying them at the same time.
Teachers can approve students’ choices and let them read books before discussing them in small groups in class.
Many students benefit from having choices and being actively engaged in class material. If students are interested in what they are reading, they will be more enthusiastic about discussing those novels. In turn, they will pay more attention.
Students will increase their overall grades and standardized testing scores, too. Lorrie McNeill, a middle school English teacher in Georgia, found success when letting her students choose their own books. Eighty-three percent of her eighth-grade class exceeded requirements and achieved the highest scoring bracket on standardized state reading tests. Only 22 percent of the same students were in that bracket when they were assigned novels the previous year.
Freshman Pooja Sonikar said, “Whenever we read interesting books in class, I pay more attention to what we learn. It’s easier for me to remember what happens for tests and essays because I’m not bored and daydreaming.”
Students will also gain more from the reading material. If a student were to flip through “Romeo and Juliet” and then use outside sources such as Sparknotes to get good grades, he might not gather as much from the message of the play as he would if he read a modern day novel with the same themes, such as “The Fault in Our Stars”. Both books have important messages about youth and love, but one might appeal to and help a student more than the other.
Those who find the usual high school curriculum’s novels interesting and worthwhile can still opt to read them.
In fact, students will become more interested in reading if given choices. When students moan about loathing books, they are usually speaking about assigned class literature. They do not like classics from hundreds of years ago, as they prefer modern novels that excite them or are relatable, such as fantasy or realistic fiction novels. If they are able to explore their interests more, they would find a genre they enjoy and discover more books.
By allowing students to start with simpler books, teachers will also help students become more enthusiastic about reading. If teachers encourage students to read more challenging novels as time goes on, they will eventually reach a point that is much further ahead than their starting point.
In this way, students will not miss out on challenging material by only sticking to below grade-level works.
Freshman Pooja Pandya said, “I enjoy some of the books we read in class, but others just aren’t as interesting. I like to read a variety of books, and the ones that I choose are usually entertaining but challenging.”
In the long run, this is what matters most. After high school and college, students will need to have a desire to read instead of an ability to discuss Dickens and Salinger. This desire will not occur if students are forced to read literature they do not enjoy; instead, they will remember reading as a chore.
Overall, students would still be exposed to challenging content and lessons, but would also be empowered with choices if we change our curriculum, giving them a more valuable skill set and greater benefits.
Do you think that choosing your own reading material will benefit you in English class?